A church bell that was taken as a war booty during the Filipino-American War was returned to the Philippines and is set to be re-installed to the church where it belongs in Balangiga, Samar on Saturday.
Rain or shine, residents were excited to have a glimpse of the bells.
Marching bands and majorettes dancing to the beat of drums paraded around the streets in the morning, according to a report by Vonne Aquino on GMA News TV’s Balitanghali.
Students from the Balangiga Central Elementary School meanwhile did a dance presentation with a message of thanksgiving for the bells’ return.
The plaza was filled with locals and tourists eager to witness the turnover ceremony.
“Na-excite na lang ho kami kasi sa tagal-tagal ng panahon biglang bumalik ‘yung bells nila rito,” said tourist Flora Rita.
“Malaking karangalan ‘yan para sa amin na kasali siya doon sa lumaban sa mga Amerikano,” said Rosario Dado Balaña, a descendant of someone who fought American soldiers in Balangiga in 1901.
The town has already started its pre-program while expecting the arrival of President Rodrigo Duterte at 3 p.m.
“‘Yung unang usapan, sa church ‘yung ceremony magaganap. Ngayon dito na sa municipal auditorium magaganap ‘yung formal ceremony bukas,” Balangiga Mayor Randy Graza said.
“Government to government doon sa top, then dito naman sa local to the mayor then to the priest,” tourism officer Fe Campanero said.
Security has been tightened inside the auditorium where the turnover ceremony will be held.
“‘Yung mga kababayan natin na gustong pumunta dito, may checkpoints doon. Please follow na lang ‘yung standard operating procedures. There are areas na designated ng PSG [Presidential Security Group] na puwedeng matambayan to watch the event,” Campanero added.
The bells were removed from their crate earlier at dawn and were then put in a case covered by a veil.
Soldiers guarded the bells overnight at the auditorium.
After the turnover ceremony, the bells will be brought to the church for a thanksgiving mass where they will be blessed and reconsecrated.
The event will be followed by fireworks in the evening.
The Balangiga bells are also expected to be rung at the start of the Simbang Gabi on Sunday, December 16.
The bells were taken by American soldiers as war booty in 1901 after Filipinos staged a surprise attack against them.
Forty-eight American soldiers died but the American forces retaliated and killed around 10,000 residents of Balangiga, including women and children.
Two of the three bells were displayed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming in the US while the third bell was brought to a US Army museum in South Korea.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez led the official turnover ceremony of the bells in Wyoming in November this year.
The Balangiga bells finally arrived on Tuesday at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City at around 10:30 a.m. Prior to the return to the Philippines, the three bells were transferred to a US camp in Okinawa, Japan.
READ: 117-year journey turns US war booty to PHL symbol of closure
—Jamil Santos/KG, GMA News